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Theater

'Ghosts of Pittsburgh' scaring up a good time at the Oaks

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, 12:03 a.m.
Haydn Thomas points to the old Allegheny County jail in downtown Pittsburgh, the setting for some of his ghost stories.
Haydn Thomas points to the old Allegheny County jail in downtown Pittsburgh, the setting for some of his ghost stories.

Haydn Thomas enjoys telling a good ghost story, especially this time of year during “haunting season.”

His presentation, “An Evening with the Ghosts of Pittsburgh,” is filled with tales of ghostly sightings in and around Pittsburgh involving historical figures, sports heroes and everyday people, and well-known places, such as the old Allegheny County jail and the Monongahela Incline downtown, where apparitions have been reported.

Apparently people are dying to get into his program at The Oaks Theater in Oakmont.

Thomas, of Munhall, has sold out five performances in October – including shows scheduled for 7 and 10 p.m. Oct. 12 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26. A sixth “late-night final encore presentation” has been added for 10:30 p.m. Oct. 26.

Ghostly sightings

He says Pittsburgh is a hotbed of ghostly sightings.

“We’ve got 17 different stories, in various degrees of creepiness and the number of ghosts,” he says, stories about Henry Clay Frick, the premonitions surrounding the death of Pirates’ great Roberto Clemente, the 1969 murder of labor leader Joseph Albert “Jock” Yablonski and more.

Thomas is part of a small company, Haunted Pittsburgh, which also offers Haunted Downtown Pittsburgh Walking Tours that begin at the City-County Building on Grant Street.

He got into the business of leading haunted tours after visiting similar destinations in other countries, such as “Hitler’s Munich” tour in Germany and a “Jack the Ripper” tour in London, one of his favorite excursions for its “combination of history and creepiness.”

Thomas earned a master’s degree in history from Thiel College, worked as a teacher and for General Motors in West Mifflin before joining Haunted Pittsburgh.

Knack for storytelling

“I found out I have a knack for it,” he says of his storytelling skills, and since he’s been leading tours, “everybody comes up to me and tells me their story.”

Asked whether he believes in ghosts, he says he feels that people are convinced when they’ve seen what they perceive as spirits.

“I hear the sincerity in their voices and see the fear in their eyes,” he says. “Over the years they’ve convinced me that not everybody is crazy.”

Timothy Murray and Michelle Smith, co-owners of the Haunted Pittsburgh tour company, and Thomas, principal ghost guide, co-authored a book, “Haunted Pittsburgh,” which delves into the tales that connect the region to the spirit world.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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